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bly area through Bastogne to relieve Company A of the engineers. [6]


The engineers had just climbed out of their foxhole line west of Marvie and turned the position over to the 2d Battalion when one of O'Hara's outposts saw a German column streaming into Marvie. This was the advance guard of the 901st Regiment which had finally extricated itself from the Wiltz valley. With only a single rifle company and four tanks, the Germans never had a chance. In an hour's time O'Hara's mediums had accounted for the panzers and the 2d Battalion had beaten the attackers back in disorder and occupied Marvie. The paratroopers waited through the day for the main attack to come, but the only evidences of the enemy were a smoke screen drifting in from the east and occasional tanks in the distance. Unknown to the Americans a shift in the Panzer Lehr's stance before Bastogne was taking place.


The inchoate American defense forming at Bastogne was conditioned by a set of optimistic premises. The first of these was the promised arrival of the 4th Armored Division from Patton's Third Army in the south. During the night of December the VIII Corps commander, acting on word from Patton, told McAuliffe that one combat command from the 4th Armored was on its way to Bastogne and would be attached to the 101st. At noon McAuliffe and Roberts (who had been promised this initial 4th Armored force) learned that the entire division was to be added to the Bastogne defense. The certainty of the 4th Armored's appearance explains in part the routine and rather cavalier treatment accorded Capt. Bert Ezell and his little team from CCB, 4th Armored, when it arrived in Bastogne shortly after noon. [7] Quite obviously McAuliffe and Middleton anticipated the early appearance of the entire armored division.


A second premise-accepted in most of the 101st planning efforts on 20 December-was that the VIII Corps still had viable forces in and around Bastogne which could be employed in common with the airborne divisions. This idea, of course, went hand in hand with the very real ignorance of enemy forces and locations which obtained both in Bastogne and at Middleton's new headquarters in Neufchateau. Earlier McAuliffe and his staff had counted on Roberts' 10th Armored combat command to reinforce a counterattack east by the 101st-a vain expectation, as it turned out. There remained the 28th Infantry Division-or at least some part thereof. In midafternoon McAuliffe sent a liaison officer to General Cota, whose headquarters was now at Sibret southwest of Bastogne, with instructions to find out the German dispositions and to ask the question: "Could the 28th attack towards Wiltz in conjunction with the 101st Airborne tomorrow?"


Cota's reply is not even recorded in the 101st Airborne log. After all he could give only one answer: the 28th Infantry Division no longer existed as a division (although two of its regiments would continue in stubborn bat-


[6] It is indicative of the confusion and lack of precise information then current that the 2d Battalion journal reports, as if in surprise, that no casualties were sustained during this move.


[7] Ezell's excursion is treated with the 4th Armored story in Chapter XXI. The news of Ezell's subsequent departure from Bastogne is reflected only in scant journal notations.